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Former Weapons Inspector Discusses Iraq

Aired September 14, 2002 - 07:26   ET


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Joining us now to talk a little bit more about this is one of the first weapons inspectors to go into Iraq after the Gulf War, David Kay, who more recently is with a company called Science Applications International. He's a senior VP there.
Mr. Kay, good to have you with us.

DAVID KAY, FORMER UN WEAPONS INSPECTOR: Good morning, Miles, happy to be here.

O'BRIEN: All right. It seems as if the Bush administration had a pretty good week advancing the cause here.

KAY: I think the president had a very good week. I think very few analysts would have said the president would get applause from a UN audience in the first minute of his speech. He did, by announcing the U.S. was returning to an organization we'd left 18 years ago.

He then went on to issue a very thorough indictment of Saddam, but using not U.S. evidence, using the UN's own record and Saddam's failure to meet Security Council resolutions.

I think that puts the ball right squarely where it should be. UN responsibility to act, if the UN doesn't act, the subtext of that message was, the U.S. will.

O'BRIEN: Well, and I thought it was -- it was an excellent strategy from the administration's point of view to do that, to put the ball in the UN court, and say, you know, If you don't act, irrelevance is where you're headed.

KAY: Absolutely. I think that both internationally was that important, but it was also important for a domestic political audience here in the United States.

O'BRIEN: Tell -- let's talk about that domestic political audience. What's your sense of it right now? I don't get the sense that people bought into this concept just yet, people on the street, that is.

KAY: Well, I think the administration does do -- need to do a much more thorough job of talking to the American people. After all, those of us who have dealt with Saddam Hussein for over 11 years are intimately familiar with his behavior. You can't expect that level of attention.

I don't think it's a difficult sale, particularly after 9/11. But the domestic political audience I think the administration must focus on right now is the audience here in Washington and in Congress.

The president needs to convey the message that Congress must act early on a resolution giving him authority to use force if Saddam does not comply with the UN simply because Saddam has learned that the U.S., over most of the last 11 years, has ultimately backed down and not been willing to use serious military force.

It's only when Saddam fears for his very survival that there's any hope that he will admit inspectors. So if you want to give peace a chance, you need to authorize the president early to use military force if he fails to. That's the only hope of getting Saddam to let inspectors back in.

O'BRIEN: On the other side of the aisle, the Democrats appear to be in a difficult position, Senator Biden going as far as really Democrats are going right now, saying, Let's just slow down here for a moment.

I think they're very cognizant of the vote for the first Gulf War back in '91 and the criticism that Democrats received after that, because ultimately that war was received as a smash success.

Given that situation, the debate is apt to be rather muted, don't you think?

KAY: I think the debate will be very muted. I suspect there are very few congressman or senators who want to come out to defend Saddam Hussein or to say we can do business with him. Given his track record, you'd have to be extraordinarily risk-prone to want to join that particular ship.

O'BRIEN: All right. Meanwhile, in Iraq, you have people like Scott Ritter coming forward and saying, There's nothing really to worry about with Saddam Hussein, there's no proof of any of the allegations that the administration has brought forward. How much credence should we give the likes of Scott Ritter?

KAY: Well, I -- dealing not with Scott as an individual but with anyone who would take that position, there are, I think, two answers. There (UNINTELLIGIBLE) -- there's a lot of proof, that is, the proof of failure to allow inspectors in, and failure to allow inspectors, once in, to conduct inspections in an unfettered manner.

Of the second issue that is there is, look, the lack of hard evidence, particularly over the last four years, is because inspectors haven't been in and Saddam has engaged in deception and concealment efforts of an unparalleled status. If you want to wait till you have hard evidence, that is, a nuclear weapon that can -- that you can see and touch, or biological weapon, you're really waiting till after the first use and I think all of us after 9/11 realize the great hazard that poses for the nation.

O'BRIEN: I guess no one wants to see a mushroom cloud as the smoking gun in all of this. It is interesting that Mr. Ritter would be so sure and then willingly admit he hasn't been privy to any sort of inspections while there. Could you give us your sense of the timetable from here? A lot of -- I guess -- lay persons war-gaming going on here, about the time frame, whether something has to happen in the winter months. The Congressional -- the UN -- how do you see it playing out?

KAY: Well I would hope that the Secretary of State's able to get the Security Council to give a very -- in the next -- no longer than the next two weeks -- if the UN doesn't want to suffer really irreparable damage, almost -- a tough resolution with a tough deadline for allowing inspectors in with unfettered access.

Then, if -- presuming that inspectors are not let in, I think that's probably the more likely choice by the Iraqis, I think you then are free to take military action, presuming that Congress has authorized. And, any time after that. The U.S. military -- there may be preferred times to go into Iraq. -- U.S. military is quite capable of going in and doing it with the greatest surprise and com -- professional competence. I think at any time. I really dismiss the weather issue; I think you can operate at any time you want to.

O'BRIEN: I guess -- quickly, then -- will the stars come into alignment end of the year, first of the year?

KAY: Well, I would hope we do it at a time that they do not anticipate. That's one reason I hope the Congress passes the Resolution early on. I would hate to have to wait around till we see that Saddam doesn't comply with the UN Security Council Resolution and then go for a Congressional Resolution because that rips all possibility of tactical surprise away from the men and women who are after all going to be putting their lives on the line by going into Iraq. I think we ought to be able to go in 24 hours after whatever deadline the Security Council poses, if Iraq does not comply.

O'BRIEN: Interesting. David Kay, former UN Chief Weapons Inspector now with Science Applications International. Thanks very much for being with us this morning on CNN Saturday Morning, we appreciate it.

KAY: Thank you Miles.

O'BRIEN: All right.




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